How to Apply Influencer Marketing Principles and Boost Your Sales Numbers

Discover how B2B sales professionals can capitalize on the power of industry influencers to reach more buyers and drive more revenue.

December 4, 2017

  • influencer-marketing-for-sales

With self-educating buyers increasingly relying on peers, colleagues, and other trusted sources as they weigh their purchase options, more and more B2B marketers are harnessing the power of influencer marketing.

By tapping into the power of influencers – and especially micro-influencers – marketers inject themselves into the buying process and magnify the impact of that influence.

Here’s why sales professionals should so the same, and how to go about it.

Modern Influencer Marketing

Some people still think of influencer marketing as the act of paying money to high-profile celebrities in exchange for shilling a company’s product. However, influencer marketing has been redefined while gaining traction in the B2B world.

Rather than pay an industry “celebrity” to promote the company and its product, B2B marketers leverage the voice and reach of thought leaders to reinforce or amplify a message. In most cases, they tap into these influencers through collaborative relationships and engagements that typically come to fruition in the form of co-created content and social media campaigns.

The Power of Influencers

Considering that B2B decision makers rely on third-party influencers more than vendor content and salespeople when it comes to buying software, it’s smart for sales pros to adopt influencer marketing principles to boost their results. Influencers can serve as the credible voice that so many of today’s buyers seek, getting prospects to consider your company’s point-of-view along the path to purchase. In fact, according to the 2017 Demand Gen Report Content Preferences Survey, 87 percent of B2B buyers said they give more credence to industry influencer content. Seventy-five percent also said they place a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the content source.

Moreover, while B2B marketers typically ally with influencers whose audience closely matches theirs, they often benefit by reaching a new set of potential buyers they may not otherwise get the chance to engage. But as Mark Schaefer, author and social media marketing strategy consultant, reminds us: “the ultimate measurement is sales. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a marketing campaign or an ad campaign or an influencer campaign, it has to move the needle.”

Here are two examples of influencer marketing campaigns that did just that, as featured in the Demand Gen Report 2017 Killer Content Awards.

  • After it created The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing, Marketo leveraged an influencer marketing strategy to drive “micro-content” from industry influencers featured in the guide. Within a month, Marketo generated 3,571 new names collected, $20,557 in first-touch revenue, and $59,685 in multi-touch revenue.
  • GetResponse wanted to create a broad influencer marketing campaign to improve brand reputation and prove that influencer marketing can drive tangible results. For its campaign, the company created 65 pieces of content, 52 featuring influencers. Among other results, the campaign helped the company drive more than 17,500 webinar registrations, which ultimately led to $41,000 in revenue.  

Identify Your Influencers

As a sales professional, you can directly leverage the value of influencer marketing to engage and convert prospects. The first step is to identify the most fitting influencers – those already linked to your target buyers. As you might expect, this is one the hardest parts of influencer marketing – yet also one of the most important. It’s the same as with your prospecting: get the list right, and you greatly streamline the process of connecting with the most promising buyers.

According to Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing, “The mistake many influencer marketing programs make is to select influencers based on ‘who we know’ and their social media popularity.” The key, he continues, is “to find influencers that are topically relevant, and engaging with a significant audience in a meaningful way.”

It’s important to remember that the payoff doesn’t only come by engaging and collaborating with the influencers who command the largest network of followers. In many cases, the best approach is to align with “micro-influencers” – those with a smaller, yet dedicated, following – to reach a niche audience. It’s still influencer marketing, but at a smaller scale that can (perhaps counterintuitively) sometimes yield bigger results. That’s because these influencers tend to be more engaged with their highly targeted audiences and, in turn, are seen as more authentic than those with huge followings. As a result, their audience is very receptive to hearing what these influencers have to say and reading the content they share.

Options for pinpointing the most relevant influencers include:

  • Surveying customers, partners, and others in your LinkedIn network
  • Conducting online searches across the generic web and on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Using tools like BuzzSumo, Followerwonk, Grin, Traackr, or Upfluence to zero in on specific influencers

As you mull over your options, look for influencers who:

  • Have networks resembling your target audience
  • Cover topics that are top of mind with your buyers
  • Frequently share quality content produced by others
  • Generate likes, shares, and comments
  • Are active in terms of adding followers and engaging in meaningful discussions with their networks

Again, just as with your list of prospects, focus on quality, not quantity. A small list of the most relevant, active influencers in the industries and niches you’re targeting is more valuable than a long list of influencers who aren’t heavily active or authentically engaged with your intended audience.

Engage and Cultivate Relationships

If you’ve embraced the tenets of modern selling, you don’t expect to convert a prospect with the first interaction. Instead, you are invested in building and cultivating relationships with prospective buyers so they come to trust you as someone worthy of doing business with. Ideally, you lead with giving and helping. The same approach applies to influencer marketing.

Start following influencers of interest and sharing, liking, and commenting on their updates and content. Do this authentically, by only taking action when it makes sense. For instance, perhaps you can add new, relevant insight to an influencer’s post. Or maybe you want to pass along content because you feel it would be valuable to their existing network. Not only does this help you jump on the influencer’s radar, it gives you a chance to more deeply vet the influencer and determine if it’s the right person to engage.

When you are ready to invite influencers to connect, research your network to see if you can find a path to a warm introduction. When you do send the invite, make it personal by demonstrating what you know about them and why you feel the connection could benefit both sides. In many cases, the upside for influencers is the opportunity to widen their exposure with more people who may join their network of followers.

Remember: focus on making these invitations and relationships mutually beneficial and you’re far more likely to see a positive response.

Collaborate on Content

To pave the way for a more involved content co-creation effort, you could initially insert existing influencer quotes into your content or updates. Say you are creating a mini-guide with the goal of guiding prospects on a common issue. You could highlight thoughts from industry experts and influencers that you gather online, and tag their names when you promote the post on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other channels. You could also reach out to the influencers directly to let them know you are featuring their advice in your guide. 

By laying this foundation, the influencers you want to work with are far more likely to accept your invitation to share their expertise and insights in an eBook, video, webinar, or other substantial content project.

At the end of the day, B2B influencer marketing is about building mutually beneficial relationships that can ultimately drive greater revenues. Call upon your best social selling practices, give these relationships the time and attention they deserve, and you’ll see the impact on your sales.

For more ways sales can leverage the latest marketing techniques and strategies, download our free eBook, How Sales and Marketing Partner for Effective Social Selling.